Sustainable design becoming more popular with building owners

August 3, 2012

The value of sustainable housing and energy efficient buildings has not been lost on property owners in many areas of the country, as people are increasingly looking to add green technology to real estate in order to improve its value and cut long-term operating costs.

Areas like Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was devastated by a tornado in 2007, are beginning to tout the efficiency and practical nature of sustainable structures, according to Greentech Enterprise.

With the help of the U.S. Department of Energy, the town was able to rebuild many of the buildings that were destroyed by the tornado, and since they were starting from scratch, officials from both Greensburg and the DOE decided to use sustainable technology and green building practices.

The results have been shockingly effective, as the town is now saving $200,000 in annual energy costs for thirteen buildings, a number that is especially significant given the lack of ready capital in the area.

"The green building movement has suffered a lot from greenwashing, but Greensburg is now providing measured building performance that proves the benefits of sustainable design," Shanti Pless, senior research engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, Colorado, told the news outlet.

While green building may not have the best reputation in certain parts of the country, due to its association for some people with environmentalists and poor government planning, cutting energy costs and consumption is such a significant issue that these types of projects need to become the norm in the real estate industry.

"Many people don’t realize that buildings consume more than 70 percent of our nation’s electricity and more than 50 percent of natural gas," Paul Torcellini, principal engineer for NREL, told Greentech Enterprise.

The DOE is also looking to foster green building practices in American cities, as the agency sponsored work at the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) in Philadelphia. This effort is looking to transform the building stock in the city, through the demonstration of cost-savings and efficiency of sustainable structures, to act as a national model.

This will help the U.S. stay ahead of the curve in terms of energy efficiency, as other countries have seen significant progress in the sector.

One Japanese company was able to cut carbon emissions by a significant margin, enough so that officials have called it the least CO2-emitting building in the world.

The Shimizu headquarters, located in Tokyo, emits 38 kg/sq m of CO2 per year, 62 percent less than conventional buildings in the city, according to Environmental Leader.